Saturday, July 8, 2017

Of loss, of friends (Mistress Talanna The Violet)

I'm sure my handful of loyal readers (all two of you [laugh]) are probably wondering why I haven't published anything about This year's Ansteorran Heraldic and Scribal Symposium and the following Known World Heraldic and Scribal Symposium.

Logistically, the reason is rather simple, preparation for the latter started as I was driving home from the former, meaning time to write was non-existent. And after making it to KWHSS in Tennesse, my family continued on to visit my parents and relatives in Virginia for a week. A much needed, if somewhat tiring vacation in itself. Writing never happened.

For something of a summary, our Kingdom symposium was an amazing event, and my hat is off to his (now) excellently Erick, Sar Principle Herald, for helping to orchestrated a series of Heraldic Thistles that not only helped recognised the art in heraldry, but helped set president for future crowns to do the same, a trend I hope to see more of.

Also, My Customer Service class at Known World was a runaway success, with attendance topping twenty-five, and me running out of handouts in seconds. I was able to have lunch with Alexander Ravenscroft, the man I credit with helping to get me part of where I am today, and I was able to join HE Adela from Atlantia for Dinner, a wonderful experience.

Though I'm not going to pull any punches, some of KW was spoiled for me by the conduct of a few people. I know its not fair for me to say I didn't like an event because of a total of two warm bodies, but the fact of the matter is that getting yelled at, or barked at is... unpleasant, to be polite about it.

Between those factors and the time crunch of the vacation, well, as I said time to sit down and write just didn't happen.

But that's not why I'm here now. I'm here because I do have something I need to tell you about.

It doesn't start two weeks ago when I was at my parent's home. In fact, in a way, it ended there. But as a narrative goes we should start there.

I was getting dressed, as I recall, following a morning shower before another full day of museums and meals with friends from high school. My wife looked over at me from the other side of the guest bed, her phone in her hand, a suddenly worried look in her eyes.

"Talanna had a stroke yesterday."

The sad fact of the matter is that I am very good at compartmentalising such information. I think it's part of my emergency services training and experience, but I also know it comes in part from surviving being bullied at school. You just learn not to get mad or wrapped up in the things you truly can't do anything about. From what we learned later that hour, Talanna was alive and had paralysis on one side of her body. Even knowing what the prospects were for a stroke survivor, I was too far away, and too buried in a super busy trip to do much more than say "God, I hope she recovers."

I remember my first time ever seeing Talanna. The Laurel arrived at a Mooneschadowe populace meeting just a few weeks, as I recall after I started playing so that she could formally take Rhiannaon Redwulf as her apprentice. The relationship would ultimately see Rhiannon make it to her own peerage, but at the time, I was too green, you mouthy, too young and far, far too stupid to really understand or appreciate any of that. I just remembered her as the woman in purple, for all that was worth to me at the time.

Years, ages later, I was three days back from my trip "home" to see my parents. I was tired, I was not fully rested, and I was grouchy because how tired I was. The day at work was not going well for me, and some of my customers were being... pushy.

My Phone buzzed just then. We're not supposed to have them out on our desks, but some of us push the rules. I glanced over and saw a facebook notification. I didn't even think twice, I just tapped it to see who had said what.

The wife of my former liege lord had posted one of her characteristic comments on life just then.

"Dear death, please stop taking my friends. It's not okay."

Confused, I IMed her asking after the cryptic comment. For some reason, some worthless, stupid, self-involved reason just then, I had totally forgotten about Talanna. When Aline replied back with the news of her terminal prognosis, of a  mind too traumatized by successive strokes, I suddenly felt an icy cold ten-ton weight land on my shoulders.


A few years ago, for reasons you can read about on your own if you want, I jumped headlong and shockingly into the world of book heraldry. I had people coming up to me left and right for help with this and that. Even though I didn't know anything, I knew who to ask, and people I knew wanted to talk to me.

I remember somewhere in there I had made some time to talk with Talanna about some garb ideas I was interested in. We had sat down at Will Rodgers Scout camp and gone over details and books and much of what you would expect from a clothing Laurel being asking for help. I don't remember how it came up, but somewhere in there, the point came up that she had actually never registered her name or a device.

"By the way, Mistress," I said, "If you ever want to register it, I'm happy to do the legwork for you." I shrugged just then. "Just tell me what you want, I can probably make it happen for you. I'll ever fill out the forms."

To my surprise, she gave me a bit of a startled look and said, "You know, I've never, in all my years of playing, had a herald offer to do that for me?"

I shrugged again. I wasn't trying to impress anyone, or show off or anything. I was a Herald, that was what heralds do, wasn't it. And she was a friend, friends are who we're supposed to help, right? It was just the right thing to say.

She thanked me for the offer, and that was that. I honestly never gave it a passing thought after that until a few months ago when she caught me, ironically enough at the same camp side, but a few years later, and said: "Ivo, does that offer of helping me with a heraldry submission still stand?"

"Of course," I said, instantly recalling my offer.

And so, that was how I got Talanna The Violet as a client for a name and Device submission. Just like all of my other clients, I called up my friends and confidants in the College to document and check a name, a badge, and a device. When it came time to submit, I just pulled out my own check book and wrote the check. She had told me to tell her the costs and she would refund me, and that was my plan, but at the moment, it was easier to just write the check myself and settle up with her later.

The decision meeting on that submission actually happened at this past Ansteorrian heraldic and scribal symposium. Sitting in on it, this was where we decided that the name's documentation didn't hold up. I wasn't thrilled, but hey, you can't win them all, right? So, we would have to rework the name when I got back from my trip, another day, another job to do. I was actually okay with that as a next step. I pulled out my phone before leaving and set an appointment on my calendar to IM Talanna when I got back so we could talk about how to fix her name submission.

Sitting there at work, looking at my phone, between customer calls, probably one of the most poetic bits of irony landed in my lap like a two by four to the face.

My email chimed with my weekly reminder of my personal schedule for the next 7 days.

Item 2: "Remember to IM Talanna and talk about name submission this Saturday/All day reminder."

And then, ten seconds later, my phone beeped and I had to say "Thank you for calling [redacted] Pro Support, My name is Cisco, How are you doing today?"

They say that loss has five stages. It doesn't with me. I cut my teeth on too many situations too young to even think about denying when bad things happen. I don't say "no, it can't be, I don't say, "Its not possible". I just accept that bad things happen and that they can come in like a rabid lion too mad to understand its own damage.

In the midsts of all of this, I remember the last time I had actually spoken to her in person. She had come to a Mooneschadowe meeting to teach how to clean and fix sewing machines. It was just a few weeks ago now. Afterwards, she had asked me how much she owed me for the submission.

"Well, the total was for three submission items, $8 each. So lets call it $24 total... in the form of some service or item of Garb to be given to a new member or some other appropriate person."

She had smiled, nodded, and agreed. Nothing more was said, but I am supremely confident that she both understood my point, and was in agreement that the price was fair.

It felt odd remembering that conversation that day. It was so vivid, so real, so current in my mind.

But while I didn't sit there at my desk and try to deny what I had just heard, I did get angry.

Not just angry, furious. Mad at the world, the sun, the sky, the earth, the concept of existence. I was mad that this had to happen, and I was mad that the world would now be a lesser place without the likes of Talanna.

During a break, I took to Facebook, and composed my rage:

When the angel or messenger of death comes to me, whatever its name, Azriel, Anubis, Hades, aValkyriee, whatever... when they come, no matter how much pain I'm in, how old I may be, how ready I am to leave this life, I'm going to look it in the eye, say "welcome", and then I'm going to break its nose and yell "That one was for Terrick, My Aunt Candy, My Dog Pippin, and my friend Talanna the Violet. I hope your fucking snout heals crooked!" Then I'm going to walk past him and add "I'll walk from here."

It felt good to write it, it felt good to get the idea out. For just bout the first time in my life I was mad enough to contemplate honest heresy, if the Angel of the Lord had walked up to me just then, I would have more than seriously contemplated a prizefighter's right hook with lethal intent behind it.

That was time-stamped at 1:11 pm CST on my facebook page.

Twenty-one minutes later, my IM chimed.

Elena Wyth (of all people) friend and a member of the College if heralds, was IMing me.

I'd met Elena relatively recently, and my fondest memory of her is actually an argument. We had crossed sword, as it were wit strongly differnt opinions about a class idea I had, and she had gone toe-to-toe with me (quite literally) to criticise my proposition. She had walked up to me later and apologised.

I literally laughed. "For what?" I asked with an honest smile.

"I was a little more... passionate than I should have been."

"Nonsense! its good to see someone stand their ground and make a good, solid argument! You're okay in my book. No hard feelings at all!" I had meant every word of it too. Sure she was strong willed, but her arguments were sound and solid. and she never resorted to name calling or any such nonsense. For me, it was perhaps the best possible impression I could have asked for from someone.

And that memory is what was hovering in the back of my mind as I pulled up her message.

"In the scope of all things - this is very minor message, but, you were consulting herald, so! I'm going to push through Talanna's stuff."

I don't even know if Elena had ever met Talanna, or knew more than to say the name before that date. But here she was, ready to help do a unorthodox fast track on a submission so that maybe we could register Talanna's arms (and still possibly name) so that they would be on the books and protected. It turns out that the idea was her lord's to claim, but she had agreed and had evidently been closer to a computer to make it happen. But within the hour, none other than Star Principle Herald himself had called and left a message verifying that he was putting his name to the plan as well.

Later on, Elana confirmed that the special letter of intent for society level submissions had been sent.

Somewhere that night, the anger finally broke like a fever, and the weight of the whole situation landed on me like a load of laundry soaked in cold water and dropped from twenty stories up. Enough to make you miserable, but not enough to know me down. I felt sad for the loss, and sad those who had lost more. I felt guilty for feeling the way I did when other had lost so much more, and I felt worst still for not feeling worse, for being so f*ing resilient and strong that I was going to work and I was talking to customers through it all.. acting almost as if none of it bothered me.

Again, I took to Facebook

Guys, I need something to remind me there is still good in the world.
I don't need comedy or a laugh.
I need to know there are still cases where 'the good fight' is out there, and still worth fighting.
I need to remember that there are still causes worth fighting for.
I guess I need to be reminded that there still is a light at the end of this really ugly tunnel right now.

I didn't know what I expected. In fact, I'm fairly sure I wasn't expecting anything, but I just needed something, anything to remind me, on an emotional level, that there would be an end to this.

To my surprise, one of the replies was from Master Darmaid, Talanna's Husband.
"Yes, there is still good. I've learned that from the most wonderful partner a person could have. And she'd tell you so if she could."
That a man still immediately involved in the process of his wife's death could stop and write such a thing for the benefit of someone who at best is a casual acquaintance is, to my mind, a testament not only to his strength of character but also to the legacy of Talanna herself.

Its said that the 4th stage of loss is where you try and negotiate. With whom... I have no idea, but its evidently human nature to try and mitigate or otherwise control the impact of the loss.

I don't.

I don't say "I'll do anything", or "maybe we can change this" or whatever. One of the lessons I learned early, compliments of the fire service, is that death isn't a businessman. You don't negotiate, you just pay the bill hen it's due and picks up the pieces when it's over.

Trust me, as life outlooks go, this one is not something to brag about.

But, with that step gone before it ever arrived, it left me with the cold, mirthless embrace of acceptance.

I accept that I am going to walk away from this less complete than I was. I accept that the world is a lesser place without Talanna, and her contributions to us were still vibrant, and honest, and real and current and valuable.

I accept that the "other side" of this will not look like what life did before this happened. I, at least, and probably others, will forever carry the reminder of what might have been, and what will never be now.

But I also accept that to embrace these facts is to keep with the spirit of the person in question. Because to accept them is to learn to add them to life's load and move forward so that we do for others by the example of what Talanna did for us.

When another friend of mine lost his son to a fire, I wrote a poem to help me make some semblance of sense to all of this. Here, I write it again, with one line changed in honour of Talanna.

I do not pray for those lost, for they are in God's hands.
Is is for us, the living, that I now pray. For it is we who shoulder the weight of loss, the darkness of despair, and the loneliness of an empty place in our lives. 
Talanna is at peace, at rest with friends long gone.
But let us now turn our thoughts to those still with us, those next to us, friend and stranger, far and near. For I believe in my heart of hearts that there is still work to the done on this earth, and still friendships to be forged, rivalries to be set aside, lives to be built, and built up, and built upon.
There is work to be done, and it is good work, and it is important work.
~And ironically, much of it is exactly the type of monotonous work that I would expect Talanna to be doing with her sleves rolled up and her hands busy with a project or three.
For those hurting, I ask peace. 
For those morning, I ask hope.
For those haunted, I ask blessings.  
For those angry, I ask joy.
And for those lost, I ask guidance.
In Christ's name I pray,

His Lordship Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King!"

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Congregation, Education, Fellowship (King's college 2017)

It was the type of journey that my wife and I have long ago accepted as part of the ritual pilgrimage owed by us to the kingdom. Perhaps that is a hair on the melodramatic side, but it is something of an accepted fact between us that the collegium events in our kingdom were benchmarks that we should make every effort to attend each year. This year was no different, and as such, we loaded up early the Thursday night before, and then set out Friday night from my place of work (thanks to a friend bringing my wife that far) for the five some-odd hour drive down to the home of a friend who was offering us lodgings for the night, allowing us a fresh start in the morning.

King's College was one of the events that I didn't get to make it down to as often as I would have liked. With it occasionally showing up in the southern region, there were times when it was one of the first casualties of time and fiscal responsibility. Not that I never make it, some of my favorite stories still come from one of my earlier ventures down.  Still, as come has passed, the focus of such trips has also changed from one of an exclusive student to one of teacher and comrade. Much like it's cousin Ansteorrian Heraldic & Scribal Symposium, King's College is as much a chance to network and socialize as it is anything else. And, to be fair, my goal this year was one of teaching, education, and networking.

The first class for me was my newest addition to my library: "Introduction to Ansteorra". This was my attempt to help give a framework of information to new members. As it happened class was scheduled for the main fellowship hall, and my collection of five students shared the space with about thirty people sitting and chatting. We were successful in holding the class, but I felt like the setting wasn't as conducive to conversation and interaction as it could have been. Still, I am not sorry I held it.

Afterwards, I chanced across a familiar face on her way into the same event. Less than a fortnight following her elevation, Deanna was walking in the door just as I was making my exit from the main hall. It wasn't just good to talk to her again, but it wad good to talk with her as a friend, and without the weight of a job to do hanging over my shoulders. Not to suggest for a second that I even slightly regretted accepted the request to herald her into her Laureling, but part of success is the ability to look back at it and enjoy it for the accomplishment it was.

Mistress Deanna de la Penna at her elevation, two weeks before.
Photo compliments of  Master Caelin on Andrede
With permission of Caelin and Deanna. 
Deanna has always been one of the "kind spirits" in my circle, a pleasant person with a pleasant outlook on life, the type of calm a chaos junky like me enjoys being around ever so often. We only spoke in passing, her on her way up a small flight of steps, I on my way down the same flight. It's not that there was anything momentous about the conversation, but I write about it here because I feel it's important that people understand the value of a "kind spirit". Is there any word, or sentence or even conversation in my friendship with Deanna that is somehow moments or epic? no. But would my life be a lesser story without her influence on its narrative? Yes, I wholeheartedly believe it would be.

The event broke for lunch at this point, and we all went our separate ways, my wife, myself and our host travelling to a local Italian eatery. The waitress there was fascinated with our garb, and we made sure to leave her with a SCA business card.

My next classes weren't for some hours after lunch's conclusion, so I set out to wander the halls and enjoy what conversation I could. I had looked over the class list already, and would continue to do so throughout the day, but for a myriad of reasons, and some questions of fatigue, I didn't feel up to attending any of the offered classes just then.

In something of a happy coincidence, the same length of steps from where I had spoken with Deanna was stage for another figure when I walked by some time later. Tall, and stately in a way truly unique to his six-foot-plus frame, Duke Adb al-Mahdi Jamal ibn Hakim, was dressed in his typical Moorish splendor, sharing a laugh with friends when I walked up to him that afternoon. if someone had a write a thesis statement about our resident Moorish duke, it would be that his cool confidence was perfectly counterbalanced by an inherent humility, and the whole package pivoted on an innate drive to make others happy. For all of his regal trappings, Mahdi was about as dignified as a high-school birthday boy, with an expressive face more likely to smile than anything else. Nearly every other sentence I have heard from the man is some empathetic recognition of something said to him a moment before, what has to be a reflexive pattern of engagement and encouragement at this point in his life. In every encounter with the man over my two decades here, each conversation was treated such that, regardless of our respective ranks, we were always met as equals, two men linked by a love of fun stories and lives that can only be called larger than the sum of their parts.

Duke Adb al-Mahdi Jamal ibn Hakim from spring coronation , 2017
Photo compliments of  Stephen Blakele
With permission of Stephen and Mahdi

The conversation that day was epic in its simplicity. Madhi was still very much coming down off of the unexpected high from his Lioning two weeks before, and even as he stood there, a lion's medallion handing off its mantling on his chest, the majority of his conversation revolved around illustrating how amazing his friends were, and how humbled he was for the ongoing recognition. A man of extraordinary energy and enthusiasm, nothing better defines him than his drive to lite others up with his good spirit. All that being said, he also brings an extraordinary career to any conversation, and the ability to talk about as many battles as he has been in, or camp fires that he has been around adds depth to any exchange.

This day we swapped stories about Ansteorrian 30th Year and some of the heraldic submissions Madhi and I had both seen, as well as bringing up some of the frequent ruminations about "the militant arm of the college of heralds". We shifted the conversation about membership numbers, and recruitment issues ever closer to the forefront of modern SCA policy. Every word out of his mouth punctuated with an expressive face that spelled out his thoughts on a subject before the words could be shaped by his mouth.

My second class of the day, held close to the end, was my Girdlebook class. I had discovered girdle books at Kings College some time ago when they were handed out as site tokens for instructors. The first was a slip cover for a small marble notebook. I later expanded on the idea, making a larger, more durable book for storing my cell phone. When that got stuck in a car door, I finally assembled another one, this one with a fake leather cover and metal hardware. My class is the product of historical research and some soap-boxing I have taken to doing lately about people pulling out their model phones while at events, and worse yet, while they are in court. The class was well attended, with, as I recall, over a dozen people attending, and paying close attention, asking questions and swapping stories and feedback.

The final class of the day, starting at four, wasn't a class at all. Rather it was a roundtable I described as "a chance for voice heralds to sit down and just talk for a few". More specifically, this was a chance for younger or prospective heralds to ask questions of the more experienced core of heralds.

Master ‎Brian O'hUilliam (left) and Master Alden Drake (right)
Both photos taken from Facebook (I *might* have asked permission)

I've known Brian and Alden for longer than I really care to try and remember. Though I think my first real interaction with Alden was when he was Star principle herald and I was interviewing for Northern Regional herald Brian, on the other hand, is a southern voice herald, and student to Master Modius (another personality I know well) whom I have crossed paths with on only a few occasions, though we sometimes meet like a pair of rams trying to see who's head in harder.

Alden has always been, at least in my conversations, the quit, reasonable voice in a room. The guy who puts his hand up and says "you know, that guy over there just said something interesting." I'd imagine he has as full a spectrum of emotions as any of us, but his demeanor in my presence has always been one of calm determination.

Brian, (again much like his mentor, Modius), is an intense, focused personality. His words are not just chosen, but sculpted, and if you listen to him talk, its clear that where many of us would tolerate, or perhaps just survive administrative settings, Brian thrives in them, much like my mundane self did in the chaos of an emergency situation. It's tempting at times to unflatteringly call him a policy wonk dismissively, but to do so ignores the fact that he doesn't talk to hear himself talk, he talks to accomplish things, and those things, more often than not, as real world with tangible consequences. He's a rare man, able to display the type of stoic determination at times that I would more often associate with a soldier or warrior.

As to the hour-long meeting, the conversation was well attended, with heralds and non-heralds, new and veteran in attendance. It was a good roundtable, actually, with some interesting questions being asked. One young herald asked is things overhear from other heralds has any sort of expectation of copyright, or the like. Another asked about the roles of the herald at an event, and who they work for, also who seeks out heralds for what activity. That lead to a fascinating (and expected) conversation about differences in how groups manage their own event. I really do want to call out Alden for reminding us that talk of what heralds are needed where is something that should be talked about earlier rather than later. I also pointed out that approaching a subject from the standpoint of "we need a herald" will play into the conversations of detractors who don't approve of voice heraldry at events. The subject of information flow, communication, and timeliness, things that do resonate with event stewards more often than not.

The interplay between seasoned heralds and the younger crowd (not to mention two non-heralds who also attended and contributed as well) was encouraging and educational for all of us I felt. It wasn't epic, or earth moving, but being a good herald isn't about being larger than life all the time. It can be about the little conversations, the hints, the tips, the words of reassurance between comrades.

I'm glad for the classes I taught at King's collect this year, but I'm more grateful for the chance to reconnect with friends, old and new, and the ability to build up the network of people, heralds and not, who help make my SCA career as extraordinary as it is. And also, I'd like to home that in turn, I am able to do the same to others as our paths cross each meetings and each event.
His Lordship Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King!"

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

101 Reasons

I hit a point about ten years ago, give or take, when I was ready to quit the SCA. There wasn't some catastrophic fight or major drama this time. I just woke up one morning, not wanting to go to a meeting, or attend an event. It wasn't some temporary lethargy. This was a persistent, confident fatigue, like the joy of the game had finally drifted away. As I crawled out of bed that day and climbed into the shower, my mind dwelled on all of the mistakes that had pot marked my SCA career so far.

The misunderstandings, the bullying, the taunting. It felt like reliving my middle school career all over again. People I once called friends were now distant, some openly mocking of our differences. I'd been called "a petty little bitch" and "pussy" to my face more times by members of the fighting community in a single season than I think I had been called in two years of middle school. What "friends" I could recall that morning were few, far between, and none of them really inspired confidence. I was once again a confirmed member of the looser's club. mocked or ignored for things that I never actually said, but oh "it's something Ivo would say, so it must be true." For some reason that seemed to carry with it more weight and credibility than any flavor of denial I could ever give, and that was assuming I was ever asked my side of things. All too often I was not.

I probably washed my hair twice that morning. It's something I do when I'm distracted, usually not noticing until I went to rinse my hair and notice the shampoo suds already on the walls. I would just roll my eyes and hope that the extra scrubbing helped with my dry skin.

I think I've been called every name in the book at least once. But that wasn't what killed me most of the times. What used to just hack me off was when I would work my ass off at an event. I'd help stack chairs, or do dishes, or load trailers on Sundays, good, honest, hard word, the type that leaves salt stains on your shirt from all the perspiration. Did I ever get thanked? Sometimes, but honestly, I wasn't in it for recognition. So, that wasn't what made me mad. No, what made me had was that a week later, I would arrive late at some project, or just as they were wrapping up something, and help with the last tent pole or something really insignificant. You know, one last drop in the bucket, the type of penny-any bullshit that anyone can do. Then, someone would turn around and say "Good to see you finally helping out." Yeah, those words, one flavor or another, at least a half dozen times in two years. I remember when our resident centurion said it to me while I was hefting a ridge pole over my shoulder. I more than seriously contemplated taking his head off with it when his back was turned. Well, I'm not in jail, or on death row so you can guess what impulse win that little skirmish.

When I was drying myself off, the whole thing just played over and over and over again in my mind, like the credits on some 60s epic movie. It was a never ending list of every screw up I had ever legitimately done, or been wrongfully accused of. they just hung there over me, like lead bricks pulling down on my shoulders. Somewhere in there, I decided that there were a hundred reasons to just quit. I don't completely know why, but a round number like a hundred just sounded good. I went back to my room to get dressed, more than seriously wondering what I would do with my newfound free time when I quit the SCA and suddenly had even less than no life.

I don't remember when it crossed my mind, if it was before or after I got my blue jeans on, but some odd piece of logic came to me just then. if there were 100 reasons to quit, to walk away, to break off all ties, were there as many reasons to stay? It was an academic question, but still, the type of thing I liked to chew on.

Were there 100 reasons to stay?

I remember honestly counting just then. one, then two, then three...

Five, nine, seventeen...

Thirty-five. I remember that I got stuck on that for a while. Maybe, I reasoned, this was my logical side telling me that there really weren't enough good reasons to stay.

Then a name came to me. A man who at one time compared me to "a diamond in the rough".

HL Alarich Von Thorn, my first liege lord.

Then another name.

Lord Facon Du Prey, rapier fighter, friend, and fun spirit I knew from my times heralding the rapier fighters.

And then another, and another.

Then two more, and then twenty. Faces without names, voices without faces. People only known to me by a thank-you, or a smile.

I remember counting that day. I remember counting from one to one hundred.

The sales were even, and I felt the moment of uncertainty as the decision was no longer out of my hands, but felt like a ton of weight on my shoulders. Did I stay, and face the same bullshit? Or did I walk away and find some other pursuit?

Then one more name came to me. Honestly, it could have been anyone. It could have been any person from any time in the society. I assure you that the name was random, but not insignificant.

The name belonged to a man who welcomed me into a conversation, offered me a chair, and asked me how I was doing. He shared a laugh with me, and spoke with me, rather than to me. A man who's great status and stature were as distinct as they were visually powerful. But, the same could be said for his friendly demeanour and encouraging attitude.

Perhaps it could have been anyone who just happened to be that hundred and first person. But in my case, it was (then) count Mahdi.

So, feeling the scales of the decision shift with the silent weight of an iceberg, I walked out of the house that day not contemplating an exit from the society but wondering what I was going to bring to the next project's night.

Now, as easy as it is to sit back an enjoy this narrative for what it is on the surface, I ask you not to leave it at that. For if you carry this thought, this tidbit of philosophy forward to its logical conclusion, it doesn't head on a high note or a low note. Rather, it ends with a question.

"Are you someone's hundredth reason to quit, or are you reason one hundred and one to stay?"

His Lordship Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King!"